TNB Night Owl – The Wichita Falls Skyscraper

Wichita Skyscraper. Photo by Michael Barera.

Everything’s bigger in Texas, or so the saying goes.  It’s a matter of state pride.

In addition to being one of the seven deadly sins, pride is an invitation for con artists.

In 1918, J. D. McMahon decided to add to the legacy of Texas’ penchant for building the largest of things.  To that end, he decided to raise cash for a new 480 foot tall skyscraper in the middle of Wichita Falls.

Well, he never actually SAID it was going to be 480 feet tall.  He just showed potential investors the blueprints, and spoke lovingly about the need for Texas to have a skyscraper of its own.  The blueprints were professionally drawn, and they were clearly marked for anyone to read: 480″.

For those unfamiliar with size notation, that’s the symbol for inches, not feet.

McMahon proceeded to oversee the construction of the project, which was developed exactly to the specifications on the blueprints.  480 inches… 40 feet.  A four story “skyscraper”. 

The proportions were fine, but that meant that the length and width were diminished on a 1:12 scale, too.  It was only ten feet wide, and sixteen feet long.

He’d raised enough money to construct a building twelve times that size, though, so he was flush with extra cash.  That served as an excellent profit, with which he promptly skipped town.

It was a swindle, pure and simple.  But McMahon kept to the letter of his promise, obviously expecting that to keep him on the correct side of prison bars.  The “skyscraper” had been constructed, and it was 480 inches tall.

The building – officially the Newby-McMahon building – has been declared a Texas Historic Landmark.  As fraudulent as the “skyscraper” might have been, the construction work was excellent.

Of course, it was hard to verify exactly how good the workmanship was… the building had not been given any stairwells to reach the upper floors.

Question of the night – If you were to build your dream home, what would it include?

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About AlienMotives 1991 Articles
Ex-Navy Reactor Operator turned bookseller. Father of an amazing girl and husband to an amazing wife. Tired of willful political blindness, but never tired of politics. Hopeful for the future.